An apology to Dr Vince Cable

In what will likely be my last political outing for a while, I got the train to Cheltenham recently for a talk by the Business Secretary, Dr. Vince Cable. It was hosted by Cheltenham Ladies’ College, organised by the impressive local Liberal Youth branch and attended by some exceedingly bright young students.

As expected, the Business Secretary spoke with the lucidity, insight and maturity which characterises his style of politics. He detailed the origins and consequences of the 2008 financial ‘heart attack’ – in terms even I could understand – to a packed room of attentive students, teachers and visitors.

A harsh critic of government at the time, he spoke not with backward-looking triumphalism but with forward-looking pragmatism. When a student asked if he was ‘risking public confidence by texting Ed Miliband’, Cable replied that he wanted to see his policies survive future changes of government – and that the ‘grown-up’ way to do this is to keep Labour in the loop. I couldn’t agree more – this is the ‘new politics’ we were talking about in 2010: a politics of consensus, not of tribalism.

He moved on to explain some of the strategies his department is taking. Research is receiving additional funding, apprenticeships are booming, manufacturing – notably cars and aerospace – is being strongly supported. Cable sees our present economic woes not just as a challenge – but as a chance to learn from history and set tomorrow’s economy on firmer foundations.
Sam Lawes and Vince Cable
So it is regretful that I have to end this report with an apology. I must confess to having fallen prey to that most irritating of crimes – I accosted the poor man for a photograph. You can imagine what our poor ministers must think when we do this: “Oh, no. Another photograph with a greasy, grinning volunteer I don’t know from Adam. He could be a Kipper for all I know. Great.”

That’s certainly what I’d think. Worse still, a clamour of equally eager schoolgirls followed suit. I really felt quite bad about it. So, Dr. Cable, thank you for another great talk, in which you have rekindled my faith in the possibility of a British politics based on intelligence, maturity and cooperation. And sorry for unleashing, by way of thanks, a tide of photograph-hungry schoolgirls upon you. It’s a thankless task, this business of being a decent politician.

* Sam Lawes is a member of Liberal Youth who is currently working in Turkey.

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  • A very bright guy who tries to do the right thing. Given this, why he accepted the Browne report, which was certainly not required by the Coalition Agreement, we can only guess.

  • But he didn’t accept the report – which called for unlimited fees.

    No, what he backed was a fee-capped fair, progressive and more sustainable system where graduates – not students – start repaying fees at 9% of their salary, when they earn £21K pa. or more.

    So, for example, a graduate earning £30K pa would repay £810 pa.
    Not exactly onerous, is it.

    The debt does not affect credit score or mortgage applications. Oh, and the £21K rises in line with average earnings.

    Grants are available to less well off applicants, equivalent to a fee free year & maintenance grant for all those receiving the Pupil Premium.

    That’s why UCAS has just reported record numbers of applications from those with the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

  • Michael Thomas 9th Feb '13 - 5:25pm

    At a talk for the local party in Nottingham I found Vince’s talk interesting and educational. He took questions from an audience which was not just a hand picked bunch of members. He also promoted the use of non-partisan politics to try and get the correct solution and the job done.

    He was also gracious enough to have a picture session with good grace with all who attended who wanted one. I was also lucky enough to win one of his books which he signed.

    I don’t think he would have minded a picture with you. :)

  • The elected Reps should be working hard to keep the support of activists, not trying to stand on pedestals.
    Photo- opps are quick, cheap and easy, and fun for activists too.

  • Alun Griffiths 10th Feb '13 - 6:45pm

    I rather suspect Sam had his tongue in his cheek when he chose a title guaranteeing we would read to the end ;-)

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